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The Actual Value of
Motivation & Engagement
in the Workplace
Jim Bouchard, author of Dynamic Components of Personal POWER
The Actual Value of Motivation and
Engagement in the Workplace
By Jim Bouchard, author of Dynamic Components of Personal POWER
“The Power of the Wolf is the Pack, and the Power of the Pack is the Wolf.”
I thank Rudyard Kipling for this expression; I freely paraphrase this sentiment from “The Jungle Book.”
Employee motivation is on one level a very complex process. The most effective organization is one
which provides opportunity for each individual in the organization to satisfy his or her personal quest for
success and happiness. The problem is that while the organization or Pack can provide resources and
opportunities for individual success, the fact remains that ultimately all motivation is internal and the
process of creating personal success is the responsibility of each individual. Even the definitions of
success and happiness are unique to each individual; the Pack can provide the resources and the
opportunity, but each of us must define and create our own personal vision of success and happiness.
What is the role of the company when it comes to employee motivation and what is the role of each
individual employee? The focus of my life’s work is on the development of the individual, so I’m going to
concentrate on the personal responsibility of the wolf in creating his or her own success. However, since
we’re pack animals by nature, let’s look at the opportunity the organization has in providing resources
to cultivate and support individual success. The organization that understands the value of supporting
individual success for its members is inevitably more productive, agile and profitable.
The Expense of an Unmotivated and Disengaged Workforce
Three Hundred‐Fifty Billion Dollars a year1; I don’t know that these words create a powerful enough
$350,000,000,000 a year; that’s a lot of zeros! In fact, Three hundred billion dollars buys:
• About 16 million new cars.
• About 1.5 million new homes.
• About 3.5 million private college educations.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have all this back in our economy? Of course the losses incurred from lost &
wasted time due to a lack of employee motivation and disengagement are not usually felt directly.
These employees are still paid for their time; the drain is on the company and the economic impact is
Hrcases; “US CEO Compensation Trends”; http://hrcases.wordpress.com/category/hr‐surveys/... Accessed
secondary and tertiary. We feel this impact on a global level in the form of higher costs of doing business
which eventually translates into higher prices for goods and services. The same unmotivated and
disengaged employees who are losing and wasting all this time are those who will eventually feel the
economic impact of these losses.
Widely published research from the Gallup Organization indicates that only 29% of the American
workforce is actively engaged on the job.2
• 54% are “not‐engaged” moving through the day like automatons.
• 17% are fully “disengaged,” they’re not productive at all and are likely to be disruptive to other
Reports on actual time wasted and lost report up to 2.9 hours per employee workday on average. The
average employee is wasting nearly a third of his or her working life.
The Power of the Wolf…
My expertise is personal motivation and performance, so let’s start with the wolf. We’ll return to
organizational responsibilities, or at least opportunities later. For now let’s look at the role and
responsibilities of the individual at the workplace.
As an employee you are paid to do a job. It is the responsibility of your company to provide you with the
tools, resources and in some cases the training to do your job, usually in relative comfort and safety. The
more you advance in your career, or the higher you enter a particular job sector or management level
you are likely more responsible for your own training and education; it may even be a pre‐requisite for
You are the only person responsible for your individual success and happiness. The fact is the only
person responsible for your success and happiness is the same person who brushed his teeth in your
bathroom mirror this morning. It is not the obligation or responsibility of your company to provide you
with the motivation or even incentive to improve yourself or even to do your job well. It is very likely
that when you were hired you demonstrated adequate self‐motivation, discipline and character to be
considered for your position.
I’m not justifying organizational complacency in regard to employee motivation, quite the opposite. An
enlightened organization realizes that investment in motivation, morale, and emotional support of
employees is a high‐yield investment. Still, no level of investment in motivation, coaching, morale
building or incentives will produce results in an employee who completely lacks self‐motivation or a
sense of personal responsibility.
Dr. Maynard Brusman; Employee Engagement, Running on 1/3 People Power;
The first step in building a productive and motivated workforce is to hire self‐motivated and responsible
people. The next step is to understand what motivates individuals in your organization and provide the
resources that give each individual the opportunity to create personal success.
The Balance Sheet: Motivated Employees are an Asset
Want to recover some of that lost and wasted time in your organization? If you need some motivation
to do so just multiply the American average of 2.9 lost payroll hours per day by your average rate of pay.
My calculations show that based on the average American salary, saving even 10 minutes per employee
workday can result in a recovery of $2,000 or more per year. That’s just recovering the direct cost of the
lost and wasted time. When you invest in the motivation and engagement of your employees what is
the actual return on your investment?
• Lower employee turnover resulting in reduced training and replacement expenses.
• Less sick and lost time.
• Healthier employees often translate into lower health insurance premiums.
• Focused, engaged employees make fewer mistakes, have fewer accidents, maintain equipment
and facilities to a higher level.
• Provide higher levels of customer service.
• Engaged and motivated employees are:
o More productive.
o More creative and responsive.
o More loyal.
o More cooperative with other employees, create more productive teams.
o Better candidates for advancement within the organization.
Motivated and engaged employees attract other motivated and engaged employees!
In your organization, what is the true monetary value of keeping a motivated and engaged employee for
a longer period of time? What is the value of increased customer loyalty and familiarity created by a
motivated employee? What is the value of having employees who enjoy and appreciate their team
mates and work together to further your company mission?
Understanding Employee Motivation: A New(?) Paradigm
Remember, the Power of the Pack is the Wolf. How do you motivate your wolves?
Harvard Business Review recently published a tremendous article on employee motivation written by
Niten Nohria, Boris Groysberg and Linda‐Eling Lee. Nohria is also co‐author with Paul R. Lawrence of
Driven: How Human Nature Shapes our Choices.
My experience with motivation is a front‐line perspective. I transformed myself from a disgruntled
employee into a gruntled employer. When I decided to change my life I began what would become a 20
plus career as a professional martial artist and instructor. I’ve taught thousands of students to accept
unlock their true potential through martial arts. I wrote Dynamic Components of Personal POWER to
translate these principles for success in personal and professional life. I write, speak and teach the
components to help others embrace personal responsibility for success & happiness, to unleash your
true Black Belt potential and to embrace the process of continual self‐improvement.
Noriah, Groysberg and Lee are the scholars; I’m a fighter. Let’s see if we’re on the same page when it
comes to exactly what motivates the wolf!
According to the scholars there are “Four Basic Drives that Underlie Motivation.”3
The Four Drives:
• The drive to acquire.
• The drive to bond.
• The drive to comprehend.
• The drive to defend.
So far so good! You can find these same ideas in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Any martial artist or CEO
should be comfortable working within this paradigm.
In a way, these are all drives to acquire. To consider yourself successful you need to have “enough.” Of
course enough is relative to your own unique requirements and ambitions. You need to have enough in
three key life areas:
I call this The Success Triangle. Our scholars’ four drives certainly validate my theory of success. As
human beings we want to acquire enough to satisfy our needs and desires materially, emotionally and
spiritually. The drive to bond certainly speaks to our need to acquire meaningful emotional connections
at work, home and in our community. The drive to comprehend speaks to our greater spiritual need to
acquire some level of connection with our purpose and place in the universe. Emotionally and spiritually
we want to acquire knowledge and experience that allows us to make a meaningful contribution at
home, at work and in the world around us. The drive to defend speaks to our need to acquire a certain
measure of safety and security. “The drive to defend tells us a lot about people’s resistance to change”4
according to our scholars; I agree.
Nitin Nohria, Boris Groysberg, Linda‐Eling Lee; “Employee Motivation: A Powerful New Model”; Harvard Business
Review, July‐August 2008; pages 80‐81
Ibid, at 81
“Because the four drives are hardwired into our brains, the degree to which they are satisfied directly
affects our emotions and, by extension, our behavior.”5 These drives are integral to our brain physiology
because these drives are necessary for survival. We need to acquire at the very least adequate food and
shelter. We learned early in our development as Homo sapiens that bonding gave us a distinct
advantage over bigger, stronger and badder animals equipped with sharper teeth and claws. Our drive
to comprehend gave us the ability to learn, adapt, survive, and eventually to migrate and thrive in
conditions and environments far from our warm and lush African origins. Our drive to defend is of
course essential to any creature’s existence and is the key to protecting our hard won resources.
As our relative drives for basic necessities are more easily satisfied, our drive to comprehend the world
around us and our place in it become more important. Out of necessity our ancestors focused most of
their energy on hunting or gathering enough to eat and finding shelter from whatever wanted to eat
them. Most American workers can satisfy the basic drives to acquire and defend the basic material
resources of food and shelter; we’re left with an increased need to satisfy our drive for emotional and
spiritual resources. We’re now entering an age where it’s more important than ever for us to feel a
sense of purpose and belonging. We have plenty of time to think about what we want to do with, well,
our time. Since we’ll spend nearly a third of our lives at work, what we do on the job to satisfy those
needs is more important than ever before.
If you can’t satisfy these drives, or the relative satisfaction of material, emotional and spiritual
acquisition you’re likely to view the world from the perspective of scarcity and negativity.
Scarcity and negativity are not conducive to productivity, performance, creativity or teamwork. Scarcity
and negativity induce proprietary behaviors, caution, fear and complacency. If the perceived cause of
this scarcity and negativity is the workplace, the inevitable result is disengagement.
If, on the other hand, the workplace provides you an opportunity to express yourself creatively, to find
purpose in how you’re spending a third or more of your life and allows you to develop meaningful
connections with others your job becomes a valuable part of your identity and your personal
satisfaction. The workplace that helps you satisfy these drives becomes a valuable resource for your
personal development, success and happiness.
The Value of Power
Power is your ability or capacity to act or perform effectively.
Each of us has the innate desire for power. You want to feel as if you’re effective, that your actions are
meaningful and likely to produce a desired result. Power is necessary to satisfy the four drives.
Motivation is a product of power or one’s feelings of effectiveness. When you feel that you have the
ability or capacity to perform or act effectively the result is greater personal motivation. When you lack
a feeling of power, if you feel ineffective, you’re likely also to feel disengaged. Without power you feel
Ibid, at 80
as if your work is futile and meaningless; not likely to produce your desired results or in worst cases, any
Can the organization provide the resources an individual needs to satisfy the four drives, to have a
reasonable chance of acquiring material, emotional and spiritual satisfaction? Can the organization
provide what the individual needs to create and realize a personal vision of success & happiness?
The Power of the Pack:
The most effective organization commits to providing the resources each member needs to have a
chance at personal success. An organization is made up, above all else, of people. When the
organization dedicates itself to the success of the individual, each individual member is more likely to
contribute to the success of the organization as a whole.
What can you do to motivate and engage each individual in your organization?
The first and probably most important step is to make sure motivation is a top‐down process. All
effective motivation is a product of effective leadership and the most effective leaders lead by example.
The leader models a commitment to continual self‐motivation and personal development seldom has to
demand compliance to his or her standards; people will be more inspired to follow. An alleged leader
who thinks motivation is an external process to be installed or compelled will soon find that people are
naturally resistant to dictatorship.
You can compel people to action by fear, deprivation and control but unless you can also keep them in
the workplace with a fence, you’re setting your organization up for disaster. When you model personal
motivation and share your motivation and enthusiasm openly people are much more likely to follow.
The next step is to find out what motivates each individual on your team personally. Train your
managers to do the same. Install a culture of open communication and meaningful delegation
throughout your organization. Place competent people in strong teams, give them the resources they
need and let them work.
General George S. Patton once said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they
will surprise you with their ingenuity.”6
At the same time you’ve got to assure fair and equitable treatment in compensation, distribution of
workload and recognition. People respond to fair treatment and become resistant or complacent when
they perceive injustice or unfairness.
There are many systems and techniques available to install and monitor equitable compensation, work
distribution and recognition on an organizational level. My focus is on the individual. Earning a Black Belt
is one of the most personally motivating experiences any person can have. Nobody can earn the Black
Alan Axelrod, Patton on Leadership (Paramus, N.J.: Prentiss Hall Press, 1999), 165.
Belt for you. You will have a lot of help along the way in the person of teachers, fellow students and
those who support your efforts. Ultimately, you’re the one who steps onto the floor and earns the belt.
The same is true for success in personal and professional life. Carter McNamara, MBA & PhD. of
Authenticity Consulting puts it this way:
“You can’t motivate people any more than you can empower them. Employees have to motivate
themselves. However, you can set up an environment where they best motivate and empower
Success is a product of Personal Power; to be successful, you must be effective. Effectiveness increases
value and value is ultimately what is rewarded by increased compensation, responsibility and
recognition. In Dynamic Components of Personal POWER I teach that power is generated through the
components of motivation and discipline applied over time. Motivation and discipline must be
internalized. These are the commodities that make one more effective or powerful and therefore more
valuable. Motivation and discipline must be applied over as much time as it takes to increase one’s
effectiveness and therefore value.
When you look at it from this perspective you’re really developing something in excess of skill; you’re
really developing mastery. Mastery is valued more highly than skill because mastery is required for
effective leadership at the highest levels. Mastery attracts respect.
The Chinese express this concept of self‐directed motivation and discipline applied over time as “Kung
Fu.” I organize these three components into what I call the Kung Fu Triangle.
How does this stack up to the scientific findings of our scholars? Remember that the more the
organization can satisfy the four drives that underlie motivation the more motivated and engaged the
workforce is likely to be. I’ll add that as employees share greater responsibility in this process, and the
more they see equitable management of this process they’ll respond with a greater level of loyalty,
commitment and ultimately productivity.
Nohria, Groyserg and Lee recommend a logical and effective set of actions:
First, the drive to acquire can be addressed through a reward system. They recommend that you
“sharply differentiate” between performance levels and “tie rewards clearly to performance.”
The drive to bond is satisfied by creating a positive organization culture that encourages “mutual
reliance and friendship” and encourages productive teamwork.
They link the drive to comprehend with job design. This satisfies an employee’s desire for meaningful
work that contributes to organization success. I’ll add here that providing training opportunities for
personal and professional development and actively soliciting employee input in processes increases
feelings of being a meaningful part of the organization. We wonder about our place in the greater
scheme; it’s important to provide opportunities for employees to have a place in the greater scheme!
Finally, the drive to defend is satisfied by “performance‐management and resource‐allocation
processes.” People need to know they’re being treated fairly and they need to know they can trust their
superiors and the organization. You cannot foster feelings of security within a culture of distrust or
incompetence. The drive to defend really speaks to personal security and that feeling is fostered by fair
treatment and open communication.
The real secret according to this remarkable team of researchers is to satisfy all four drives with relative
equality. Concentrating on one area at the expense of another is not effective. For example, a high‐
compensation package means nothing when employees perceive unfairness in how compensation is
distributed or see others rewarded without regard to performance or meaningful contribution. This
speaks to the Dynamic Component of balance.
The source of human energy and power is represented in the Dynamic Components by the three
components of the Energy Triangle: body, mind and spirit. Each of the four drives corresponds to one or
more of these three fundamental sources of human energy.
The drive to acquire is a physical and emotional need that relates to body and mind. We are driven to
have enough to satisfy our basic human needs. The drive to bond is an emotional and spiritual drive that
extends from our mind and spiritual need for connection. Likewise we are driven by mind and spirit to
understand the world around us and our place in it: the drive to comprehend. The drive to defend rises
from all three and is expressed in body, mind and spirit. Spirit specifically speaks to courage; our
willingness to act in the face of danger or risk.
What is more essential to the performance of a highly effective organization than employees who are
willing to extend themselves beyond current limits of performance and creativity? This requires courage.
The organization can provide resources, support and training to provide the opportunity for each
individual to develop in body, mind and spirit and cultivate power through motivation and discipline
over time. Finally, the organization can provide the structure and resources to afford each individual to
apply power most effectively through the components of the Power Triangle: balance, focus and timing.
The most effective organization is the one that provides the greatest opportunity to develop as effective
individuals. Powerful individuals create powerful and productive organizations. An organization that
provides equitable opportunity for each individual to create a personal vision of success and happiness
through one’s work is most likely to develop and sustain a dedicated and productive workforce.
How to Get People to Motivate Themselves
The goal of any business is sustainable profitability. We can cite studies, introduce systems and discuss
management theories as they relate to motivation. In the end to be truthful I still need to reiterate the
conclusions of the scholars I’ve quoted and my personal experience as a teacher and trainer:
“To be effective all motivation must be internalized; ultimately motivation is the responsibility of the
Some more Harvard scholars, David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind and Michael Irwin Meltzer put it this way:
“Most companies have it all wrong. They don’t have to motivate their employees. They have to stop de‐
That’s a fact! The key to employee motivation is not a patronizing attempt to motivate others; it’s a well
considered effort to understand the personal motivations of each member of your organization and to
provide the resources and opportunities for self‐motivated people to excel.
I’ll take it one step further and say that it’s nearly impossible to motivate anyone who is not self‐
motivated. Get rid of unmotivated or disengaged workers. Better, don’t hire them to begin with. Some
will get through; be prepared to cut your losses.
So what’s the best way to help self‐motivated people motivate themselves? I’m going to take the liberty
of condensing my study of current motivational theories, the wisdom of the ancient martial arts sages
and I’ll sprinkle in a healthy dose of my 20 plus years of experience as a teacher and alleged motivator:
• While it’s nearly impossible to motivate another person, we all find other people motivational
and inspirational. Be an inspiration to others. If you want to be motivational, be motivated and
lead by example. Cultivate your power: people are attracted to power, not weakness.
• Provide the raw materials: training, education and resources that people need to succeed. Most
of all provide opportunity based on personal merit.
• Provide incentive to fail safely. This means recognize the effort when someone is courageous
enough to push the envelope. This does not mean to reward foolish mistakes, incompetence or
carelessness. Reward those brave enough to reach beyond conventional limitations and you’ll
find someone that will lead your organization to the next great opportunity.
• Recognize excellence and provide support for those making a sincere effort. At the same time,
do not coddle or show special preference to those who don’t deserve it or refuse to accept
responsibility for personal success & performance.
• Criticize fairly and praise sincerely. Encourage rather than disparage, even in moments of
intensity. Criticize the action, not the character of a person. Offer correction in the form of a
clear statement of the issue, followed by a question or correction that guides one to a solution.
• Share your knowledge, wisdom, and experience with others. Create your personal and
organizational vision of success and share that vision with others. Provide the resources
David Sirota, Louis A. Mishkind, Michael Irwin Meltzer; “Stop Demotivating Your Employee!”; Harvard
Management Update, Vol. 11, No. 1, January 2006. From http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/5289.html... accessed
necessary to realize that success and provide the opportunity for individuals to realize personal
success in synergy with organization goals.
The closer your personal and organizational goals align with those of the individual members the more
motivated your people will be. Ultimately this is the process of generating power and applying that
power to achieve success.
The Most Effective Motivational Process
The most effective motivational process, the way to create a culture that satisfies the basic human
drives, needs and desires is: TEACHING.
In business you can call it coaching, mentoring and training but the process is fundamentally teaching.
Teaching is the most elemental human interaction. The bond between student and teacher is one of the
strongest human connections.
Effective teaching, coaching and mentoring is dependent on sincere, open and consistent
communication. Teaching is the process of delivering the intellectual and emotional resources necessary
for any individual to perform or act effectively: to become powerful.
A sincere teacher becomes one of our most treasured relationships and one of our greatest resources. A
culture of effective teaching, mentoring and coaching satisfies all the drives one needs to create
Effective teaching and mentoring can extend to all levels of an organization. Everyone in the
organization can be actively engaged in the process of mentoring others, or preparing to. The role of
teacher and mentor gives one the feeling that he or she has value to others and is making a meaningful
contribution to the organization.
Not everyone will be a great teacher, but nearly everyone can teach something. A meaningful discussion
of the process of teaching goes beyond the scope of this article. For now it’s enough to state that all
effective leaders are effective teachers.
Jeffrey Gitomer shares the wisdom of John Patterson, President of National Cash Register and arguably
the father of modern motivational and sales training:8
“Business is nothing but teaching.”
I’d make the argument that life is nothing but teaching. If you want others to be motivated, teach them
how to motivate themselves. If you want others to find motivation through your actions, teach.
I’ve devoted most of my adult life to teaching. I’ve enjoyed the rewards of having others consider me a
valuable resource in their lives. I’ve seen them embrace the process of self‐motivation and self‐
Jeffrey Gitomer, Little Platinum Book of Cha‐Ching (Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press, 2007), page 75.
perfection I’ve tried to model. As I’ve given more value to others, they’ve rewarded me materially,
emotionally and spiritually.
The organization that dedicates itself to teaching becomes a tremendously valuable resource in the lives
of all its members. Your teaching should include the skills and training necessary for effective job
performance. Since your employees are likely to spend a third or more of their adult lives on the job,
extending opportunities for training in personal development and personal success tremendously
increases the value of the organization in the lives of your employees. When the leadership of the
organization is personally involved in the teaching process by coaching and mentoring as well as
sponsorship, the leaders become a valuable resource in the lives of employees.
The two most important qualities of leadership are: GRATITUDE and GENEROSITY. When you teach you
are constantly expressing gratitude for the efforts and achievements of your students; because we’re
talking about business let’s call them employees. You are continually engaged in the process of sharing
your knowledge, wisdom, experience and power.
What could be more motivating?
Jim Bouchard is America’s Black Belt Powervator: Speaker, Coach and Author of Dynamic
Components of Personal Power. Book Jim for your next event!
Call 800‐786‐8502 and visit JimBouchard.org.